“What I Learned While Taking My First Solo Trip”

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Million Mile Secrets team member Harlan recently told me about his first big solo trip to Europe.  The idea of traveling alone might sound daunting to some folks.  So I asked him to share his experience!

Harlan:   Thank you, Daraius!  So I recently got out of a 7-year relationship.  And haven’t traveled alone, except for a couple of business trips.  This was my first time planning an extended trip for one.

I was nervous about it.  But decided to jump in feet first.  Because I want to keep traveling, even if I sometimes have to go alone.  And I found it rewarding!

What To Expect When Traveling Alone
Ahhh…a Big, Roomy Business Class Seat on Brussels Airlines. All for Me!

Here’s what I learned.

What to Expect When Traveling Alone

I visited Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague, which was made possible with miles & points.  And for the first time, I traveled by myself to 3 new countries!

What To Expect When Traveling Alone
I Spent Two Days Wandering the Seemingly Endless (and Beautiful!) Canals of Amsterdam

I thought the experience would feel lonely, boring, or uncomfortable.  But once I got started, I realized I had more freedom than ever before.  And once I let go of all the ideas of what could go wrong, I decided to focus on what I wanted to do and see.  And that required asking myself what I was truly interested in getting out the experience.

1.   You Have Complete Freedom of Your Schedule

When I’ve traveled with other people, each day seemed to be planned by committee.

I love to spend hours, or whole days, in art museums studying every meticulous detail of paintings.  So when I visit a new city, I always head to the museums.  My interest in fine art is sometimes met with yawns or blank stares from my travel companions, who want to get to the next destination.

What To Expect When Traveling Alone
Francis Bacon Is One of My Favorite Painters. So When I Saw His Artwork in Brussels, I Took My Time to Admire His Techniques

I made a point of visiting as many museums as I could on this trip.  And found it liberating to indulge my own interests for as long as I wanted, completely uninterrupted!

This feeling transferred to other experiences.  I love dark craft beers.  And spent one evening trying some Belgian brews, simply because I wanted to.

I also love naps!  So when I got tired of exploring the gardens, castles, and outdoor sculptures in Brussels, I treated myself to a long, untimed nap. 🙂

But having complete control over your schedule requires you to have a schedule.  And solo trips are an opportunity to ask yourself what YOU are really interested in seeing and doing.

2.   Comfort Zones Are Made to Be Broken

I’ve never been one to pull up a seat at a bar and strike up a conversation.  Yet, I’ve never minded one bit when someone wants to talk with me.  It was time to break that habit!

What To Expect When Traveling Alone
Cocktails for One Are Fantastic. But Don’t Feel Shy About Talking to Those Around You!

At first, I felt self-conscious that I only speak English.  Especially when everyone else was speaking other languages.  And while I would’ve been fine to sip my drink alone before my next exploration, I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?  They don’t want to talk to me?”

It’s amazing how far a smile can go.  And how kind people are no matter where you are in the world!

For just a few nights, I left my shyness and self-consciousness at the door.  And decided to ask a local, “How’s it going?”  Sometimes it’s the beginning of a great story!

Once you realize the worst that can happen is a blocked conversation and a little awkwardness, it’s easier to break out of your shell.  But during my trip, everyone I met was more than willing to share a conversation.  Just try it!

3.   Self-Reliance Is Empowering

For some reason, I thought a trip that wasn’t shared wasn’t worth taking.  Until I realized the fact that I wanted to travel for myself was reason enough!

What To Expect When Traveling Alone
I Loved Taking the High-Speed Thalys Train From Brussels to Amsterdam. Now I Know I Can Do It Again If I Ever Want to!

For the past several years, I’ve always had a partner in crime to share my adventures with.  So finding my own accommodations and buying my own tickets felt new and strange.  For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s preferences but my own.

And while that might sound selfish, I found an opportunity to discover my own pace and preferences.  How long would I want to stay in a place?  What would I want to see if it were all up to me?  Except this time, it was.

What To Expect When Traveling Alone
Want to Visit Every Outdoor Sculpture in Brussels, Like This One of a Smurf? Go for It!
Solo travel is a tremendous opportunity for self-exploration.  You can see as much (or little!) as you want to in a day.  Linger in places that feel right to you.  And not have to worry about anyone else’s schedule but your own. Travel is always worth it.  So if your friends or family can’t make a trip with you, consider going solo.  It’s a fantastic and rewarding experience when you have the right attitude about it!

Bottom Line

I found my first solo trip:

  • Gave me freedom over my schedule based on my interests
  • Got me out of my comfort zone
  • And presented an opportunity to customize every preference down to the smallest detail

I learned to follow my instincts.  And to fill my days with things that make me excited – including world-class museums, delicious local brews, and unlimited naptime! 😉

It’s all about your mindset.  If you make up your mind to have a great time, talk to locals, and pursue activities you find fun and worthwhile, you’re likely to have an amazing experience traveling alone.  Any time you can see a new place is always worth it!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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